Unwitting Collaboration & Web3 Experimentation
Auctioning Power to the Person as an NFT and Splitting the Proceeds
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Hi friends 👋 ,
Last week was a blast around these parts. I wrote a lot of words about Not Boring’s first year and Ramp’s double-unicorn rounds.
Today, to give your brain a breather and mix things up, let’s a couple new things:
Keeping the essay shorter.
Auctioning off an NFT.
I’m convinced that if you’re the kind of person who reads Not Boring -- someone who’s interested in the intersection of tech and business -- you should spend some time down the Web3 rabbit hole. There’s too much interesting stuff happening and too many smart people involved to ignore it. The NFT is one way to get involved, and there are many more.
Let’s get to it.
Unwitting Collaboration & Web3 Experimentation
Chris Dixon wrote two posts circa a decade ago that I come back to often:
What the smartest people do on the weekend is what everyone else will do during the week in ten years (2013)
Each is about one simple, actionable idea:
Toy: Don’t dismiss new ideas off-hand, or you might miss the next big thing.
Weekend: Watch what smart people do in their free time and get involved.
Both widen your aperture. I keep coming back to these posts for the same reason that I read sci-fi: they prepare you to meet crazy new ideas with curiosity rather than dismissal.
They’re both very short, too - 560 and 171 words, respectively. I’m pretty sure I’ve written sentences longer than each.
Today, I’m going to try a Chris Dixon-like approach to this essay, both in terms of form and content. And I’m adding a twist.
Minting an NFT
I’m minting a Not Boring essay as an NFT, auctioning it off (starting now), and splitting the proceeds with the people whose work I referenced.
Chris Dixon’s work has had a big impact on mine. So has the work of many others. Every time I write a Not Boring essay, I link to the work of at least twenty other creators. There’s no Not Boring without them.
Linking to their work is a kind of payment in the form of attention. That’s typically how it’s worked, in both media and academic research: you write something, someone else uses it, they send you attention, and it’s up to you to figure out how to monetize it. But NFTs offer a way to tighten the value exchange.
In Power to the Person, I wrote about research as a potential application of NFTs:
Research. Today, the success of a research paper is measured by the number and quality of citations. What if, instead, the research paper was backed by an NFT that made it free to use for other academic research, but that paid the researcher out any time it was used for commercial purposes.
The same should be true for media. Today, working with Jess Sloss at Seed Club and Patrick Rivera and the team at Mirror, we’re taking the first step towards making that possible:
We minted my Power to the Person essay as an NFT and are auctioning it off, starting now.
The Twist: in Power to the Person, I referenced 26 people’s work or ideas. I shouldn’t get all the credit, or all the proceeds from the NFT auction. And I’m not. Mirror just created a feature that lets creators split the proceeds from the sale with other people, and I’m the guinea pig, the first person to try it. The proceeds from the sale will be split with the 26 people whose work I referenced and the people who share it (if I have their ETH address; the unclaimed amounts will go to charity).
Here’s how it works: 50% of the proceeds go to me, 50% goes to the people whose work I referenced, proportionate to my estimate of how big an impact each person’s work had on the essay. Li Jin will take home the most, with 8%, because her writing on the Passion Economy was fundamental to the piece.
You can bid on the essay now, and if you win, you own it. You can:
Keep it forever
Flip it in a few days
Or hold on to it as an investment in the hopes that either Not Boring makes it big or the concept of creator splits makes it big and you own the first ever NFT of its kind, in which case its value could increase.
I’m fascinated by why people buy certain NFTs, so I’ll also record a conversation with the winning bidder and publish the podcast.
To play, you just need to hit the link below, connect your wallet (I use Metamask), and bid:
You’re buying the essay, but really, you’re supporting the concept of splitting revenue equitably with everyone who impacts a piece of work. This is the first experiment in that direction, and you can own it.
Don’t want to bid but want to support the idea and get involved?
I wasn’t able to get everyone’s ETH address, which means that 69% of the split goes to me (nice!). I’m donating 9% to charity, and for the remaining 10%…
If you quote tweet this tweet below and include your ETH address, you’ll split 5% of the proceeds with everyone else who quote tweets it. Plus, we’ll randomly select one person who quote tweets it to get 5% of the proceeds.
The people who share creators’ work are a valuable piece of the work itself. All of you are the reason I’m not just writing into the abyss. You should participate in the upside, too!
Why am I doing this? There’s a direct reason, and a meta reason. Let’s start with the direct.
This experiment is a very rough first draft of what I think media could look like in the future.
Already, people like Mario Gabriele are experimenting with splitting proceeds with intentional collaborators, people who decided to work on something together. Mario launched a $GENERALIST token and split the proceeds with people who worked on the S-1 Club piece on Coinbase. Aligning collaborator incentives is going to unlock new ways to work together.
This is a little different. Power to the Person is about individuals creating increasingly complex businesses by building on the work of others. This NFT split is an attempt to compensate the “others.”
Most people who “collaborate” on a piece don’t do it intentionally or synchronously. They are intentional creators of their own piece, and unwitting collaborators on future ones. This unwitting collaboration plays out over weeks, months, years, or decades. Someone contributes some idea to the universe for its own sake in the present, and then in the future, someone else picks that idea up, riffs on it, and creates something new by combining that existing idea with other existing ideas and some personal sauce.
Sometimes the intentional creator gets credit for that original idea, in the form of a link, a shoutout, or an MLA citation. Often, people just steal the good ideas, blend them into their own work, and pass the whole melange off as their own. This isn’t malicious. It’s how the brain works.
But what if you could tag those original ideas? Nothing heavy. Not a paywall. Just a light tag that sticks to the idea as it flows through time, brains, and new works. When that idea is used to form a new idea, and that new idea makes money, the original creator gets a little tip for their contribution. Over time, if you put enough good, novel ideas into the universe, you might generate a stream of revenue that can support the creation of even more ideas. That revenue stream isn’t subscription or advertising. It doesn’t depend on you creating new work to make a living.
Instead, it depends on the power of your ideas. On whether they become building blocks for new ideas. That changes the game. It changes how people create and what they create, and how they earn a living.
Instead of writing something pretty good every week, writers can spend months honing one idea.
Instead of being rewarded for audience size, creators are rewarded for idea impact.
Instead of being rewarded for grabbing attention today, creators are rewarded for staying power over time.
Instead of being paid as labor - write, make money; stop writing, stop making money - ideas become capital, making money for their owners even while their owners sleep.
This isn’t an either / or. The existence of ideas as equity doesn’t replace subscriptions or ad-supported models. It’s just another option, a way for creators whose work doesn’t fit the current model to get in the game and earn a living, and a way for existing creators to diversify income streams content types.
It rewards quality over quantity or virality. And it’s logistically possible because of Web3.
The Meta Why
This isn’t that, yet. The NFT is the “looks like a toy” version of that future. It relies on the remixer to want to pay out the remixed. It’s still pretty manual. A lot of other things need to happen to get to the end-state I described above. This is just an experiment.
But that’s the meta-reason I’m doing this: to experiment with Web3, and to encourage you to do the same.
It’s not as hard or complicated as it looks from the outside, and the potential benefits of being early are massive.
Web3, aka crypto, is a return to the vision of the early internet, with built-in superpowers. Done right, it puts the value in the hands of the people who create the value. And if you’re reading this, it’s time to get involved.
Web3 today sits at the intersection of Dixon’s two essays -- it looks like a toy, and a whole lot of smart people are spending their nights and weekends on it.
The real ones are spending that time less for the short-term returns, and more because it’s really fucking fun. It’s a nerd olympics. There are endless rabbit holes for the curious to explore, and countless willing tour guides. It’s welcoming, collaborative, and fast.
After I wrote Power to the Person, Jess Sloss, the founder of Seed Club, DM’ed me on Twitter. He wanted to help me get more involved with Web3, to experiment in addition to writing. We set up a call for early March, and he asked me, “What’s an experiment you’d want to try?” I thought for a second, and came up with the rough outline for the Split NFT above. It hadn’t been done before, but he thought hard for a couple minutes, and didn’t see any reason that it couldn’tbe done. He told me he’d talk to some people and get back to me.
A week or so later, he brought Patrick Rivera from Mirror into the conversation. He said they couldn’t do it yet, but that they’d work on it. Three weeks later, it’s live.
In about a month, we went from crazy idea to live product. That’s lightning speed.
Speed is possible because building on-chain is like open source with money baked in. Builders are able to take products off the shelf, write a few lines of code, and combine them into new products.
For this particular experiment, Mirror took smart contracts for NFT Minting + Auctions + Splits off the shelf, added their own flavor, and voila. It really is like Legos. And it’s addictive. Once you start thinking about the possibilities, you can’t stop.
Many of the smartest people I know have caught the bug. It’s coming up in more and more conversations that I have. High-priced auctions are grabbing the headlines, but the people I talk to, non-crypto people, people with traditional backgrounds, are digging into the details and playing around.
In the past two weeks alone:
An investor told me that he’d spent hours learning about the mechanics of quadratic voting and needed to figure out how to balance Web3 exploration with his full-time job. Web3 is pulling more and more of his time.
Dror, who has spent most of his career in real estate, has been writing about the implications of NFTs and Social Tokens for work and employment.
A successful entrepreneur who’s been in tech since the beginning of the web is spending a lot of his brainspace on how to use DAOs to supercharge his community.
James Wang, formerly a SaaS analyst at ARK, has been publicly transitioning from SaaS and traditional finance to crypto. He just tweeted his crypto meta-lessons: crypto is picking up mainstream adoption. Get involved early. And keep learning even if prices crash.
The examples go on, but I said I’d keep this short.
Web3 is accumulating energy. It’s built to accumulate energy. From a strategic perspective, this is its number one advantage: Web3 projects can build incredibly strong network effects very rapidly by structurally baking in rewards for early adopters. If anything disrupts the huge incumbent tech companies, I’m increasingly convinced it will be built on the blockchain.
I missed the beginning of the internet. I mostly missed the beginning of the mobile boom. Web3 feels like it is going to be equally important, and it’s still early days. I don’t want to miss this one.
Spending time learning about and playing with Web3 has asymmetric upside. It’s like playing around in the early days of the internet, except that you get rewarded for just playing. You don’t need to build the next big thing. Participating in the right community, buying the right NFT or social token, or backing the right protocol early brings intellectual and financial rewards.
If you’re reading this, you’re still among the early ones. Maybe you own some Bitcoin, maybe you own some ETH. Go deeper. Pick something that you’re interested in. If you’re in finance, learn about DeFi. If you’re a community builder, learn about DAOs and social tokens. If you’re just broadly curious, pick any rabbit hole, jump in, and get involved.
On a panel at Seed Club’s Crypto x Creator Summit earlier this month, Li Jin talked about the reason she minted her own NFT, which sold for $25,000 and landed her in the New York Times. She said she didn’t want to write about or invest in the space without doing it herself. She wanted to understand the mechanics, and what it’s like to sell your own work to someone else. She wanted to experiment.
That’s the point of this post: experiment. Get your hands a little dirty. It’s not a normal Not Boring essay. I’m not breaking down how something works. I’m telling you that there’s something real happening, and ringing the bell for you to get involved.
The Not Boring family is in exactly the right spot to help all of this cross the chasm. We’re in the early adopter segment -- most of us have traditional business, finance, and tech backgrounds but are curious enough to learn and try new things -- and by getting involved and experimenting, we can help bring it mainstream. The cool thing about Web3 is that you can benefit directly from making that happen.
Even if you’re not going to sell an NFT for $25k (most people probably won’t, including me), find something to go out and play with and see where it leads. Start with an on-ramp like Coinbase or BlockFi if you haven’t and want to dip your toes in. Join a Discord or Telegram, experiment with DeFi, mint something as an NFT just to see how it works, participate in a DAO.
I asked Twitter for ways for Web3-curious people to get involved and start experimenting. You can use this as a starting point:
Or read a16z’s NFT Canon, a monster list of resources.
Of course, I’d love it if you learned by participating in the Power to the Person auction.
Whatever you do, experiment. Prices may crash and specific applications may go bust -- that happened in Web1 and Web2, too -- but it feels like we’re on the precipice of something really big. I don’t expect to make a lot of money on this auction; I’m doing it to experiment, to help to push the boundaries of how value is distributed, and mainly to learn.
It’s worth taking a little time on the weekends to play with these new toys.
Thank you to all of Not Boring’s unwitting collaborators, to Jess and Patrick for making this NFT Auction and Split happen, and to Dan and Puja for editing!
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Thanks for reading, and see you on Thursday for more crypto,